The image of a missing child’s visage on a carton of milk was once a hugely common sight in western society. There is a substantial problem with this idea in China, however; the country is not a nation of dairy consumers. How can this be resolved?
Well, the sizable city of Chongqing came up with a unique solution. The general manager of Chongqing Laoyuanzi Wine Co. Ltd, Xiao Dufeng, hit upon the idea of raising awareness of missing children – many of who are feared abducted – on their bottles of baijiu.
On paper, it’s a curious choice. After all, many of us choose to sip on spirits to relax and escape the more unpleasant realities of life in the 21st Century. The reality is, however, that baijiu is China’s national beverage of choice.
In 2013 a 61 year old collector of baijiu made it into the Guinness World Records book. Ning Fenglian is the chairman at Baishan Fangda a large alcohol distributor in Jilin Provence.
Ning started his collection in 1974 and has been adding to his collection ever since. Since childhood Ning says he developed an affinity to Chinese alcoholic drinks which resulted in him working within the alcohol industry.
Ning started working in a wine store in the 1990s which was running at a loss but Ning turned the losses into gains through bold and innovative measures.
At one time during the 1990s many stores were out of stock of Moutai but Ning had built up good connections with the producers and was able to profit from the shortage by ensuring the empty stores were stocked with Moutai on a regular basis.
Since then Nings company has went from strength to strength with over 300 branches across China.
Nings entire baijiu collection is on permanent loan to the Jilin Culture Museum which he built in 2014.
Back in the mid-1990’s, I had the good fortune to work at Oddbins. In 1995, labels were handwritten and the knowledge had to be retained as there was no database of notes to rely on! I recall this job as each Saturday we carried out a tasting.
One aspect involved educating our customers on whisky and occasionally other spirits like vodka, gin and rum. When showcasing a whisky, the selection was usually two differing categories such as Islay and Speyside. Allowing consumers to genuinely recognise the difference often helped perceptions of this fine spirit and aside from selling bottles, it was a fun education.
But the world’s biggest selling spirit is not a whisky or indeed any other spirit named above. Shifting over 10 billion bottles a year is a Chinese spirit called Baijiu, something that I’d never heard of 23 years ago.
If you’re interested in learning all about baijiu, you’re in the right place. Here at Baijiu Blog, we have you covered. There is only so much that can be discovered online, though. If you’re looking to become a baijiu master, you can earn your status with a degree in China.
The educational facility that offers this course is the Moutai University, a 32-acre new build located in Renhuai. Attendees will be taught everything that needs to be imparted about brewing Moutai, the province’s baijiu brand of choice. Baijiu is a way of life in China, and the university is no exception. So much so that the college boasts their own motto: “Love me Moutai, earn glory for the country.”
So, what’s the thinking behind this initiative? Is the production of baijiu so lucrative that it’s replacing traditional STEM and business degrees as an optimal career option for China’s next generation? Yes and no.
Whilst the baijiu business is booming, that doesn’t mean that skills surrounding the creation of the wine are commonplace. Distillers have been struggling to source skilled workers to brew baijiu, so this course is designed to ensure that the next generation of baijiu drinkers can enjoy the fruits of a local workforce.
Kweichow Moutai, the company that produces this particular brand of baijiu, has invested almost £2m into the project. The good news is that they can afford it. This distiller, which is partially owned by the state anyway, has recently been named the world’s most lucrative and valuable purveyor of alcoholic beverages. Even Diageo, the producers of legendary whiskey Johnnie Walker, have been left in Kweichow Moutai’s dust.